This is a piece of war art.
Ask any politician or army spokesman what business art has to do with war and short of platitudes about defending a democracy within which we may practice our art, they are likely to say ‘none’.
All wars are tragedies, won or lost. Events leading up to them and repercussions flowing from them are often deeply cynical and kept from the public eye. If you want to know the news it’s best to wait thirty years and buy a book.
In 2012, the British government will be obliged to open all archives pertaining to The Falklands war. We may expect some surprises.
The left hand side of this work makes some fairly obvious references to censorship, secrecy and perhaps even regrets. The fragmented photograph is of the foreign minister of Britain, shortly after he resigned, shortly before The Falklands war began. I don’t intend to imply he was in any way to blame. These things happen.
We live in times of war now, though you might not guess it. Someone wrote in a Guardian blog, “America is at war, but the american people are at the mall”. Another ‘disconnect’.
Nevertheless it’s been eight years now.
The Falklands war is widely agreed to have saved the political career of Margaret Thatcher.
Without her re-election in ‘83, the already headily reckless campaign to drive the Russians out of Afghanistan by financing and training islamic extremist groups may have cooled a little. As it was it rose to a peak in ’85 with Britain making use of it’s close links with Pakistan’s secret service to identify a particularly aggressive (though small and disorganized) group of Mujahideen known as the Taliban. Instead of handing out money and arms to every religious and tribal group willing to attack the Russians, the campaign became far more focussed on building up the Taliban with intensive training from both the S.A.S. and the American Special Forces in guerilla warfare, building bombs and operating sophisticated weaponry such as air to ground missiles. They also began flying in ‘Jihadists’ from Saudi Arabia, one of whom happened to be Osama Bin Laden. You could call it the diplomatic school of pouring oil on troubled waters, and then setting fire to it. Of course they were aware of the ‘risks’, but the spiral of anti-communist zeal built up between Thatcher and Reagan allowed only one priority.
The ‘what if’ game is speculative and perhaps foolish.
For an artist to step out of the studio and include real lives and events in his/her work is to walk on eggshells and invite criticism from people beyond the art world who may be genuinely and justifiably offended.
My aim is to look hard at the real world and bring what I see into an unexpected arena. If my sources of information are incorrect the work will be withdrawn and changes made.
A condition or state of mind common to all wars and the principal subject of the right hand page is post traumatic stress disorder. It is a terrifying disconnection from reality. Until quite recently british army lawyers did their best to deny it existed.
The two things that triggered this work were an account by an american ex-soldier and psychology graduate of what PTSD actually is. The first explanation I have come across that seemed to make sense, but also a truly shocking one.
See ‘War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning’ by Chris Hedges
The second was a sobering report that more Falklands veterans have committed suicide than were killed in the actual war (255).
For some more authentic voices see www.afterthefalklands.com and www.vetsinprison.org.uk